Hopes for new arts festival to replace Big West

Hopes remain for a new arts-based festival to emerge in the place of Big West. Photo by Benjamin Millar

A new arts-based festival may replace the scuttled Big West Festival this year, despite the withdrawal of a proposal by key inner-west arts organisations.

Maribyrnong council last August set aside the $85,000 earlier earmarked for Big West before the festival board suddenly announced it was folding the organisation and the festival.

Maribyrnong planning services director Nigel Higgins said the council had received a number of proposals for a future artist-focused festival and been seeking feedback since September.

A draft update of the council’s Festival City Policy is due to be presented to next week’s council meeting.

“Once the updated Festival City Policy has been adopted, a report for a new artist-focused festival model will be taken to council for consideration,” Mr Higgins said.

The Arts West alliance of inner-west arts organisations initially proposed it could spearhead a new festival, but has since pulled out.

Jade Lillie, Footscray Community Arts Centre chief executive and a member of the Arts West executive, said the timing of the festival review and council elections left too little time to gauge the council’s interest in its proposal for 2017.

“Unfortunately, the closure of the Big West Festival has left a significant gap in artist and community led festival offers across Melbourne’s west,” she said.

“Arts West will continue to work with Maribyrnong City Council and Creative Victoria to explore any new ideas or opportunities to establish something that maintains the community engaged, contemporary arts festival focus with an intention to ensure that artists and communities are at the forefront of this conversation.”